15 college football coaches not living up to their salary in 2017
Fairly or not, the credit — or blame — for good or bad seasons in college football tends to fall on the head coach. When their performances are assessed, their salary is one of the first things that comes up. Salary information for those at public institutions is readily available, and many athletic departments and boosters are willing to pony up big bucks to bring in big-name coaches with an expectations of results. As we’ve seen time and time again, the results don’t necessarily follow, no matter how big a name the coach is.
With that in mind, here’s a look at 15 coaches who haven’t lived up to the expectations of their significant salaries in 2017. Salary data comes from USA Today’s NCAA salary database.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas ($4.2 million)
Bielema is probably getting fired after the season. The Hogs sit dead last in the SEC West with just one conference victory in five tries. With two ranked opponents looming, they may not come up with a second conference win in 2017. Only once has Bielema had a winning conference record with the Razorbacks despite being in the top 20 in terms of salary. He’s wedged firmly between Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy on the earnings list — both have had far more success than he ever has at Arkansas.
Tom Herman, Texas ($5.5 million)
Herman was one of the offseason’s bigger hires, and the Longhorns paid big bucks to bring him from Houston to Austin. It would be unfair to expect Herman to engineer a total turnaround in year one, but considering the fact that Texas was in the preseason top 25 and Herman had Houston in the top ten at the end of his first season there, the Longhorns’ 4-5 record has to come as a disappointment. Herman has plenty of time to turn his Texas tenure around, but only seven coaches are making more than him in 2017. The Longhorns would have expected better.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State ($5.7 million)
Florida State’s campaign started with a season-ending injury to quarterback Deondre Francois, which certainly put Fisher and the Seminoles at a disadvantage from day one. That’s no excuse, though, for a 3-5 season in a year where the College Football Playoff was considered an attainable goal. Fisher has had a lot of success at Florida State, and he’s being paid handsomely for it accordingly. But there is no way the Seminole athletic department can be satisfied with their investment for 2017.
Lovie Smith, Illinois ($3 million)
Smith was a big get for an Illinois program stuck in college football’s wilderness — an established NFL head coach with local ties who could re-establish the Illini football program as nationally relevant for the first time since Ron Zook took them to the Rose Bowl a decade ago. That has not happened. They’re 2-7, still searching for their first Big Ten victory, and Smith’s reputation and name recognition has not translated to on-field success. Considering the $3 million investment they made in him, the poor record will come as a major disappointment to the program.
Butch Jones, Tennessee ($4.1 million)
Another coach likely out the door, Jones is still seeking his first SEC win of the season, having won four mediocre non-conference games while losing all five of his SEC tilts. Jones is one of the select group of 20 head coaches making upwards of $4 million a year. He’s earned nothing close to it in 2017. His Tennessee team has regressed in a big way after consecutive nine-win seasons. He will likely pay for it with his job at season’s end.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan ($7 million)
Perhaps it’s a bit unfair for Harbaugh, who sits comfortably at 7-2 in year three of his reign in Ann Arbor, to make an appearance here. After all, he took over a moribund program and instantly made them relevant again. However, he’s the third-highest paid coach in the nation. Both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney ahead of him, and Urban Meyer behind him, have national titles to their name. Harbaugh sits at fourth in the Big Ten East and looks set to miss out on the playoff yet again. At $7 million, the Wolverines are paying for more than this.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M ($5 million)
There’s a reason at least one regent was so eager to see the back of Sumlin early in the season. Sumlin is overseeing a stagnant Texas A&M program and having his worst season at the school so far, sitting at just 5-4 through nine games, including a disastrous early-season collapse against UCLA. Sumlin is likely on his way out at season’s end, and with good reason. He’s the tenth-highest paid coach in America, and he hasn’t delivered results befitting someone so well-compensated.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech ($3.5 million)
$3.5 million was a lot of money to pay a young rookie head coach, and thus far, Kingsbury hasn’t really repaid the faith showed to him by the Texas Tech athletic department. The Red Raiders have been a total non-factor in the Big 12 in 2017, going just 1-5, which will ensure that in five years as Tech head coach, Kingsbury still will not have led the squad to a winning conference record. Kingsbury’s salary keeps rising while his win totals haven’t been. You have to wonder how many more seasons Tech is willing to give him at this point.